In first since detente, Netanyahu, Erdogan to meet in US next week
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In first since detente, Netanyahu, Erdogan to meet in US next week

US mourns on 15th anniversary of deadly terror attacks; Clinton leaves 9/11 ceremony after feeling 'overheated'; Iran, Hezbollah back Syria ceasefire deal

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives for a memorial service at the National 9/11 Memorial on September 11, 2016 in New York.
The United States on Sunday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives for a memorial service at the National 9/11 Memorial on September 11, 2016 in New York. The United States on Sunday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Blaze rages in Jerusalem Forest

A fire has broken out in the Jerusalem Forest, west of the city. Five firefighting teams are at the scene trying to contain the blaze.

Firefighting planes dispatched to battle blaze

Firefighting planes are scrambled to help combat the fire that’s broken out in the forest west of Jerusalem. Firefighters report strong winds fanning the flames.

Turkey ousts 28 mayors for links to Kurdish group, Gulen

Turkey on Sunday ousted 28 mayors accused of links to Kurdish militants or US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, replacing them with state-appointed trustees in a major shake-up under emergency powers after a failed coup.

The mayors have been suspended from their posts on suspicion of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is waging a deadly insurgency in the southeast or Gulen, who is blamed for the July 15 failed coup, an interior ministry statement said.

They have been replaced by state-appointed trustees, similar to how administrators are appointed to head a company that goes into bankruptcy.

Twenty-four of the outgoing mayors are accused of links to the PKK and four of links to Gulen, the ministry said.

The reclusive cleric denies charges of masterminding the coup.

The move is the most important step yet taken by new Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu since he took over from Efkan Ala in a surprise reshuffle earlier this month.

Soylu said the move meant that local municipalities would no longer be controlled by “terrorists or those under instructions from Qandil,” referring to the PKK’s mountain base in northern Iraq.

The move was taken within the three-month state of emergency imposed after the coup. The incumbents had been elected in 2014 local polls.

The municipalities affected — mainly in the Kurdish-dominated southeast — include hugely important urban areas known as centers of PKK activity such as Sur and Silvan in the Diyarbakir region and Nusaybin in the Mardin region.

The mayors of the cities of Batman and Hakkari in the southeast have also been replaced. The interior ministry said 12 of the mayors suspended are already under arrest.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose regional politicians were the among the chief targets of the move, denounced the reshuffle as a “coup.”

In a statement, it said the move was reminiscent of the military takeover of 1980 and “ignored the will of the voters.”

But Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag denied the authorities had ridden roughshod over democracy, accusing the suspended mayors of funneling revenues to “terror” groups.

“Being elected does not grant a right to commit a crime,” he wrote on Twitter.

— AFP

Iran welcomes Syria ceasefire plan

Iran on Sunday welcomed the proposed ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia and the United States, but said a monitoring system was needed to stop it being exploited by “terrorists.”

“Iran welcomes any establishment of a ceasefire in Syria and facilitating of access of all people of this country to humanitarian aid,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

“Given the experience of a few months ago, the ceasefire must be sustainable… and must not be exploited as an opportunity for terrorist groups to revive their power and transfer fighters and weapons,” he added, referring to a truce that collapsed earlier this year.

“The continuation and sustainability of a ceasefire relies on the creation of a comprehensive monitoring mechanism, in particular control of borders in order to stop the dispatch of fresh terrorists, as well as weapons and financial resources for the terrorists,” said Ghasemi.

He said Iran, a principal backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has always called for a political solution to the crisis.

Ghasemi also called for humanitarian aid to reach all parts of Syria “without discrimination… in particular those areas under the control or siege of terrorist groups where less attention has been paid.”

The new ceasefire, agreed as part of a landmark deal brokered by Russia and the US, was set to begin on Monday.

A barrage of air strikes on rebel-held areas in Syria killed scores of people just hours after Assad’s government approved the truce deal on Saturday.

— AFP

Hezbollah backs Syria truce deal

Hezbollah has announced its support for a US-Russia truce deal for Syria, where the Lebanese Shiite movement has intervened militarily on behalf of President Bashar Assad.

In a statement published late Saturday on its official media arm Al-Manar, the group’s unnamed “field commander for Syria operations” said Hezbollah “stands with the ceasefire.”

“Syria’s allies are completely committed to what the Syrian leadership, government, and security and political forces have decided in terms of the ceasefire,” the statement said.

But it pledged to pursue an “open, relentless war against the terrorists” of the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra Front, which changed its name to Fateh al-Sham Front after renouncing its ties to Al-Qaeda.

Hezbollah has dispatched between 5,000 to 8,000 fighters to bolster the beleaguered Syrian army.

The group receives military and financial support from Iran, which threw its weight behind the truce deal on Sunday.

“Iran welcomes any establishment of a ceasefire in Syria and facilitating of access of all people of this country to humanitarian aid,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

The new ceasefire, agreed as part of a landmark deal brokered by Russia and the US, is set to begin on Monday at sundown.

If the truce holds for one week, the US and Russia could start joint operations against jihadists from the Islamic State group and Fateh al-Sham Front.

— AFP

2 busted at Ben Gurion Airport with 7 kilos of coke

Two Tel Aviv residents are busted after returning to Israel from Europe in possession of over seven kilograms of cocaine. The two are suspected of attempting to smuggle the illegal substance into the country through Ben Gurion International Airport.

The arrest is the latest in a series of cocaine busts at Ben Gurion in recent months.

Firefighters evacuate workers from center near blaze

Firefighters have evacuated 20 employees and visitors at the Zipori cultural center in the Jerusalem Forest because of the thick smoke caused by a nearby wildfire.

Ten firefighting teams and several aircraft are working to keep the flames from encroaching on the western neighborhoods of the city.

Forest fire outside Jerusalem brought under control

Firefighters have reportedly gained control over the blaze outside Jerusalem.

Alan Gross, former prisoner of Cuba, endorses Clinton

Alan Gross, imprisoned for five years in Cuba for his efforts to assist its Jewish community, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, citing in part her commitment to the Obama administration’s new openness to Cuba.

“I support her commitment to continue and improve our new Cuba policy,” Gross, who was arrested in 2009 for distributing internet equipment to the island’s Jewish community, wrote in an op-ed appearing Friday in the Sun-Sentinel in southern Florida where Clinton and her Republican opponent Donald Trump are expected to battle for the Jewish and Cuban vote.

“It was about time to recognize that if we want the Cuban Government to get out of the way of its private sector and private citizens, we also need to get out of the way,” he said.

— JTA

Moment of silence marks 15th anniversary of 9/11

The United States on Sunday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a moment of silence observed in a somber remembrance service at Ground Zero in New York, where nearly 3,000 people were killed.

US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump temporarily paused their bitter election campaign to attend the service with police and relatives of the victims at the September 11 memorial.

The moments of silence was observed at 8:46 a.m. (1246 GMT) — the time when the first hijacked passenger jet hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It was the first of six moments of silence that will be observed in the Big Apple.

Ceremonies were also planned at the Pentagon, where another jet struck.

— AFP

Israeli rower wins bronze in Rio

Israeli Paralympic rower Moran Samuel wins a bronze medal in the 1,000 meter event. She takes the first medal for Israel at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

After winning medal, Moran Samuel embraces ‘bronze’ son

Israeli Paralympic athlete Moran Samuel wins the bronze and asked to be photographed with her son, Arad — Hebrew for bronze.

Obama observes 9/11 moment of silence in Oval Office

US President Barack Obama joins the nation in remembering the nearly 3,000 people who died in the September 11 attacks 15 years ago.

The White House says Obama observed the somber anniversary with a moment of silence in the Oval Office at 8:46 a.m. EDT. That’s the time when the attacks began on that sunny day in 2001 — when a hijacked airplane slammed into the north tower of New York City’s World Trade Center.

Afterward, Obama arrived at the Pentagon, where he laid a large wreath at the beginning of a memorial service.

The American flag is flying at half-staff atop the White House and other federal buildings. Obama has invited governors, interested organizations and individuals to follow suit.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon when al-Qaeda terrorists crashed the airplanes in those locations.

US forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden nearly a decade later during a May 2011 raid that Obama authorized on his Pakistani hideout.

— AP

CIA chief says IS recruitment flagging

CIA chief John Brennan says Islamic State recruitment is down because the group is losing.

Clinton left 9/11 memorial after feeling ‘overheated’

Following a Fox News report that Hillary Clinton left a 9/11 memorial ceremony because of a “medical episode,” her campaign said she left after feeling “overheated,” and is now “feeling much better.”

AP contributed to this report

Paralympic officials probe Algeria’s no-show versus Israel

Paralympic authorities said Sunday they are skeptical about Algeria’s claim that its women’s goalball team missed a game against Israel in Rio purely due to travel delays.

The Algerians did not show up for opening matches against the US team on Friday or Israel on Saturday, leading to accusations in the Israeli media of a boycott by the mostly Muslim country.

Algeria’s team says that it simply could not get to Rio on time because of travel snarl-ups. However, following an incident at the earlier Olympic Games in Rio where an Egyptian judoka broke protocol by refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, the story was not immediately accepted.

Political protests are banned at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Algeria’s Paralympic officials explained that “the team has suffered a series of flights delays and extreme bad luck in attending the Rio 2016 Paralympics,” the International Paralympic Committee said in a statement.

“The IPC will continue to investigate why more than 4,300 other athletes managed to arrive on time for these Games, yet the five players and two coaches that make up the Algerian women’s goalball team have suffered such trouble,” the statement said.

“If we find during the course of the investigation conclusive evidence that this is anything but bad luck with travel then the IPC may be in a position to take relevant action.”

The US and Israeli teams were automatically awarded three points and 10-0 victories because of the canceled matches.

The Algerian women’s team is next due to play on Monday against Brazil.

In goalball, blind or partially blind players wear eye shades to make conditions equal, then try to score goals with a ball containing bells to help the players.

— AFP

Video of Clinton leaving 9/11 memorial surfaces

A video surfaces online appearing to show Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leaving the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York.

Fox News reported that she left due to a “medical episode” but her campaign then said she was just “overheated.”

“During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is feeling much better,” the statement said.

Police ID victim from Tel Aviv building collapse

Police identify another victim killed in the collapsed building in Tel Aviv last week as Oleg Mushailov, 45, of Acre.

Six people were killed in the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Hahayal when a parking garage under construction collapsed.

Air force major dismissed from duty

A senior Israel Air Force commander was dismissed from duty after it was found that the major fabricated combat training exercise results, Channel 2 reports.

Netanyahu, Erdogan to meet in US

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the United States next week, Channel 1 reports. The meeting will be the first between the leaders of Israel and Turkey since the restoration of diplomatic ties in June, and the first since ties froze in 2010.

Israeli planes said to strike Syria

Unconfirmed reports out of Syria claim Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes in the Syrian Golan Heights in the past hour.

Earlier in the day opposition news outlets reported intense clashes between rebel forces and Syrian Army troops around Quneitra.

Israeli planes reportedly struck Syria twice on Saturday.

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